More people have come forward to report cases of sexual assault since the annual "It Ends Now" campaign began in 2011, said Patrick Benner, Richmond College associate dean of residence life.
"The event allows the community to stand up and say, 'We don't condone this kind of behavior,'" Benner said. "It allows people to have a voice."
This year's campaign will be held Friday, Sept. 20. Participants sign up for a free T-shirt, which has a statement printed on the back that reads, "I pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about relationship or sexual violence." There is a space for participants to sign the pledge, and they wear their shirts on the day of the event.
"It Ends Now" was created in response to members of Richmond College wanting to have a more unified approach to sexual violence, Benner said. He, in collaboration with Richmond College Dean Joe Boehman and Associate Dean and Deputy Title IX Coordinator of Westhampton College Kerry Fankhauser, came up with the idea for a one-day event when members of the university vow to promote healthy relationships and not be silent about abuse.
"The idea to have T-shirts came from a similar event held at University of North Carolina, where participants wore shirts with "Rape Free Zone" written on them," Benner said. The group eventually established and trademarked the name "It Ends Now."
Richmond's first campaign was held Sept. 16, 2011, after being pushed back a week because of President Obama's speech on campus, Benner said. The event was promoted on Facebook, and the campaign went viral. Benner said he had even received requests for T-shirts from Richmond alumni in California. Students and faculty ordered and wore 1,100 T-shirts. In 2012, that number was 800, as many people wore their shirts from the previous year.
In 2011, an email was sent out to participants instructing them to wear their shirts and gather in the Forum. The note was forwarded to two news stations, who provided live coverage of 200 participants reciting the pledge. Last year's event was a gathering on Boatwright Hill. An event is planned for this year, something with both previous years' events in mind, but it has not yet been revealed, Benner said.
Richmond College sponsors "It Ends Now" with the intention of connecting with the other sexual violence awareness campaigns on campus, such as "Take Back the Night" and the "Clothesline Project."
Because "It Ends Now" is not gender-specific, it also works with the "White Ribbon Campaign," which university men host to end domestic and sexual violence against women. The project benefits Safe Harbor, which is a local shelter for survivors of sexual and domestic violence, said Richuan Hu, Richmond College junior class senator.
Benner said that Richmond College members liked hosting "It Ends Now" early in the semester, not only to avoid conflicting with the other events that are held in late fall and the spring semester, but also because it "sets the tone as a community."
But although "It Ends Now" is the first awareness campaign of the school year, its message transcends the actual day of the project.
"It's great to see the T-shirts worn not just on the day of the event," Benner said.
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